Common Cause Launches 10-Year Project to Build Blueprint for a Great Democracy

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  • Dale Eisman

Common Cause this week launched a 10-year, collaborative effort to craft and build popular support for a new “Blueprint for a Great Democracy.”

The project began Wednesday with a day-long conference at the historic Charles H. Sumner School in Northwest Washington. Participants, including an array of reform activists and thought leaders, were asked to examine 21st Century challenges to the model of “government of, by and for the people” conceived and implemented by America’s founders.

The initial Blueprint conference focused on the power of money in American politics and strategies for making our democracy more responsive to the needs and the voices of all citizens.

“We’re excited at this opportunity, provided by the generous support of the WhyNot Initiative and its George S. McGovern Great Government Endowment, to step back and re-examine obstacles to democracy reform and develop new ways to overcome them,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause’s senior vice president for strategy and programs. “Our goal is to build consensus around reforms that work and strategies for achieving them.”

The inaugural conference included a series of panel discussions and breakout sessions, with participants using innovative, interactive technologies to record their reactions to reform ideas and work toward refinements that will garner broad support.

Drawing on and supplementing the work of the conference throughout 2014 will be the first in a series of McGovern Democracy Fellows, each of whom will study and work on reforms designed to increase civic engagement and accountability in government. The initial fellows are:

* Vance Hickin, principal of Highway One Consulting LLC, is a digital strategist and consultant who specializes in public sphere programs. In 2012, Vance was California Digital Director at Obama for America, responsible for spearheading the state campaign’s online content, organizing, and social media.

* Zephyr R. Teachout, associate professor of law at Fordham University and an internationally recognized expert on the impact of the Internet on electoral politics and government. Zephyr directed online organizing for Howard Dean’s presidential campaign in 2004 and is a former national director of the Sunlight Foundation.

* Tracy Westen, founder and CEO of the Center for Governmental Studies, which strengthens democracy through research, strategic consulting and the development of online information systems. He taught communications law for over 30 years at the USC Annenberg School and UCLA Law School, has served as a vice president at the strategic consulting firm Winner & Associates, and was formerly Deputy Director for Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission.